News Briefs

Kansas abandons efforts to trace contacts for COVID-19 infections

By: and - January 18, 2022 10:25 am

Janet Stanek, acting health secretary, appears before the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday at the Statehouse in Topeka. (Screen capture by Kansas Reflector from Kansas Legislature YouTube channel)

TOPEKA — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Tuesday it would stop contact tracing for COVID-19 at the end of the month because of a lack of cooperation and surge in new cases.

Janet Stanek, the agency’s acting secretary, also told lawmakers during a Senate panel meeting that the agency no longer requires schools to track the source of infections.

The agency will stop contact tracing Feb. 1 and instead ask individuals who test positive to let their close contacts know about potential exposure to the deadly disease.

“The vast amount of cases is a driver,” Stanek said. “Additionally, when contact tracing started, the public was more willing to share information. We are not finding that the public is as willing to share information, so efforts relating to contact tracing end up being a little futile at this point.”

The agency reported more than 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 between Monday and Friday last week, an unprecedented surge. Multiple school districts have closed down this week because of student and faculty illness.

Stanek said schools have been unable to keep pace with contact tracing “because people are being diagnosed by the hundreds.”

“We would like to have the schools if they can continue contract tracing to continue doing that, but if not to discontinue that to relieve one more stresser that they have, already dealing with trying to keep kids in school and teachers and staff there as well,” Stanek said.

The agency will re-evaluate in 30 days.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the 2021 and 2022 Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He is a lifelong Kansan.

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